Indonesia’s president orders full stadium audit after Malang disaster

Featured image credit: Joko Widodo

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has today (Wednesday) ordered an audit of all football stadia in the country following the disaster which occurred in the city of Malang on Saturday, adding that he is unsure whether the country’s hosting of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup will be affected.

At least 131 people have died following a crush during a match at the Kanjuruhan Stadium. The incident occurred on Saturday evening as Arema FC faced Persebaya Surabaya. After fans invaded the pitch at the 42,000-capacity stadium, they were met with teargas from police. The ensuing panic led to fans rushing for the stadium’s exits, which caused the crush.

Widodo today visited Malang to visit relatives of the victims and speak to the wounded at a hospital. He also visited Kanjuruhan Stadium, vowing to find the “root” cause of one of the deadliest disasters in football history.

“I want to know the root of the problem that caused this tragedy so that we can get the best solution,” said Widodo, according to the AFP news agency. “I will order the public works minister to audit all stadiums used for the (football) league.”

In immediate response to the incident, the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) temporarily suspended the ongoing league season and also banned Arema from playing at home for the rest of the campaign.

Widodo has ordered an investigation into what occurred, plus compensation for victims, while a task force has been created to look into the matter. Police have said the investigation is focusing on six gates at the stadium. It has claimed that the exits were open, but too small for the volume of fans attempting to pass through them.

The PSSI yesterday countered this version of events stating that some gates that should have been opened 10 minutes before the final whistle remained closed. A spokesperson said they stayed shut “because of late commands” adding that officers “had not arrived”.

Malang’s police chief was replaced on Monday, while nine officers were suspended and 19 others placed under investigation. The PSSI yesterday levied further sanctions on Arema, including banning its organising committee chairman and a security officer from football for life.

Indonesia is due to host the U-20 World Cup from May 20 to June 11 next year, but the country’s staging of the tournament is now in question. FIFA could choose to sanction the PSSI, with the role of tear gas in the disaster coming under particular scrutiny. FIFA’s stadium safety guidelines prohibit the carrying or use of ‘crowd control gas’ by pitchside stewards or police.

Widodo today said he had spoken to FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Monday, stating that the head of world football’s governing body said FIFA was prepared to help following the disaster. “He (Infantino) said that if needed, FIFA could help improve the governance of Indonesian football,” said Widodo, according to Indonesian news outlet Tempo.

Widodo did not specify whether these talks covered possible sanctions or the cancellation of the U-20 World Cup. He added: “Any decision is the authority of FIFA.”